Board meets in closed session
By By Mitch Freeman and Leada DeVaney Madison County Record
Madison's Planning and Zoning Board members met in executive session at its last meeting, with the board chairman refusing to discuss what went on behind colsed doors.
Board Chairman Sandy Kirkindall called fellow boards members into executive session after action was taken on four items of business, leaving five re-subdivision issues on the table.
Kirkindall gave no indication what the executive session was about, saying, "I'm really not at liberty to discuss what went on in the executive session."
Alabama's open meetings law, commonly referred to as "The Sunshine Law," provides that all meetings of any government group charged with the duty of disbursing any funds belonging to the state, county or municipality or delegated (with) legislative or judicial function must allow the public to attend.
One of the exceptions, according to Alabama courts, is if the group is discussing the good name and character of an individual.
Courts have ruled good name and character to include personal traits such as honesty, loyalty, integrity or reliability. It does not include someone's job performance.
Governmental groups are also allowed to meet behind closed doors to hear from attorneys about a pending lawsuit but are not allowed to discuss the ramifications of the suit.
Board members present for the June meeting were John Allen, Cynthia Carson, Leon Fullwood, Tracy Lamm, Bill Nichols and Ray Stubblefield. Ron Klein and Ralph Cobb were not at the meeting.
Attending an illegal closed meeting is a misdemeanor and offenders can be charged up to $500.
While board members declined to say what the executive session was about, they had dealt with several controversial issues prior to convening behind closed doors.
Among those issues were: denied developer Louis Breland's request to rezone about 4.5 acres adjacent to Rainbow Gap subdivision. A number of Rainbow Gap residents came to last month's planning and zoning board meeting to speak out against the rezoning request, but the board tabled the issue.
Consideration of the rezoning request was delayed to allow the board to seek independent legal council because Anne-Marie Lacy, the city attorney lives adjacent to the property in question. The city attorney excused herself from board proceedings on the matter.
The property at the center of attention is located south of Foothill Court and west of Metaire Lane, and is owned by Hilda Wright.
Breland's development plan was to divide the existing four, one-acre lots into seven lots. Rainbow Gap residents told the board they were not against residential development. They said they were against introduction of the smaller lots to their neighborhood.
In addition to obtaining external legal council, the board obtained an independent zoning request opinion. James Lehe, an urban planning consultant from Homewood, advised against the rezoning request.
Lehe was not present for the meeting, but in a written opinion he said the rezoning proposal was not fully consistent the city's polices and purposes of its zoning ordinance. He also said the proposed rezoning would result in disruptions to the established character of the neighborhood.
The independent council did not convey an opinion and said he was there to address legal issues, as needed.
The board voted unanimously to deny the rezoning request. The recommendation will be passed to the city council for their review and disposition.
Kirkindall pointed out more than once that the city council has the final say.
Among business that was conducted, the board approved two rezoning requests. One to rezone agricultural acreage to medium density residential, adjacent to Heritage Plantation, the other was to rezone agricultural acreage to zero lot line residential for extension of Belmont subdivision.
A request to approve an amendment to the site plan for Rock N' Rollers park on Hughes Road at Skate Park Drive drew fire from Kirkindall. He said a building was built on the property and it wasn't located where it was supposed to be, according to the approved site plan. He directed engineering and building inspectors to inspect the site for other deviations and report back to the board in July. Kirkindall also directed the inspectors to inspect and report every month until the park is built.
We (the city) have a significant interest in that project and we want to make sure it is done right, Kirkindall said.
Kirkindall went further. He directed the city attorney and community development director to look into options that would penalize developers for violating site plan agreements. Board members Nichols and Stubblefield spoke up in agreement with Kirkindall, regarding the need to hold developers accountable. Recommendations would be made to the city council for their consideration.
A public hearing was to be held in regard to pedestrian access regulations, but it was tabled until next month's board meeting. Kirkindall said resolution details had not been completely worked out with developers and the board was not yet ready to hold the public hearing.